Toxoplasmosis in Dogs: Causes, Symptoms, Types, and Treatment

Toxoplasmosis, called Toxo for short, is an infectious zoonotic disease that occurs in both dogs, cats, and other warm-blooded animals. The disease can be transmitted to humans. According to statistics, over 60 million people in the U.S. are oblivious of the fact that they are infected and because they are protected from illness by their healthy immune systems.

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Toxoplasmosis is caused by a single-celled protozoan named Toxoplasma gondii found in raw and undercooked meat such as pork or lamb. It is also found in soil and cats feces.  Toxoplasmosis attacks and damages the brain of susceptible dogs.

How dogs get toxoplasmosis

Wild and domestic cats are the only definitive hosts for Toxoplasma gondii while the intermediate hosts include birds, livestock, wildlife, and humans. The parasite will only produce eggs in in definitive hosts and not intermediate hosts.

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When the parasites infects a cat, it completes their life cycle in the intestine of the cat and pass back into the environment through the cat’s feces.

Types of toxoplasmosis

There are three types of toxoplasmosis:

  • Acute toxoplasmosis
  • Fetal toxoplasmosis
  • Chronic toxoplasmosis

Acute toxoplasmosis can be fatal if left untreated in puppies with undeveloped immune systems. Also, pregnant female dogs who eat the organism will infect their unborn pups with fetal toxoplasmosis leading to either stillborn or death shortly after birth.

Signs and symptoms of acute toxoplasmosis

Cats are more likely to present with symptoms of toxoplasmosis, but the following signs or symptoms may also be seen in dogs. Note that some symptoms of toxoplasmosis may be seen in other diseases too.

  • Fever
  • Lethargy
  • Depression
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Tremors
  • Coughing
  • Weight loss
  • Jaundice
  • Inflammation of the eyes
  • Neurological symptoms
  • Muscle weakness
  • Lack of appetite
  • Uncoordinated gait
  • Seizures
  • Partial or complete paralysis
  • Abdominal pain
  • Inflammation of the tonsils (tonsillitis)
  • Inflammation of the retina(retinitis)
  • Inflammation of the middle part of the eye including iris(uveitis)
  • Inflammation of the cornea (keratitis)
  • Death

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Older dogs with strong immune systems may show no symptom of disease even after they are affected. Some may be able to contain the infection and often eliminate it. Otherwise, it may remain in the dog’s system as asymptomatic clusters of organisms.

How to prevent toxoplasmosis in dogs.

  • Dogs become infected with toxoplasmosis by ingesting infected cats’ feces. So it is advisable to supervise your dogs or leash-walk them to monitor where they digs, and stop them in time from ingesting something that may be detrimental to their health.
  • Litter boxes should always be out of reach of your dog.
  • Wear disposable gloves while cleaning the litter box and remove solid waste daily because the longer the feces sits in the box, the more opportunity the parasites’ eggs will have to become infectious.
  • Dogs may also contract toxoplasmosis from eating raw or undercooked meat. To prevent infection, feed a diet of commercial kibble or canned wet food, freeze raw meat at sub-zero (0-degrees Fahrenheit) temperatures for several days before feeding, or for home-cooked meals, avoid using pork or lamb, and cook other meats and poultry to the USDA recommended minimum safe internal temperatures of 160-degrees Fahrenheit for beef — chicken or turkey should be 165-degrees Fahrenheit.
  • A dog may become infected by the parasite from eating infected rodents, birds, and other animals or drinking feces-contaminated water in the environment. Watch your dog closely when walking through parks or fields and keeping him on-leash to limit his access to these possible sources of toxoplasmosis.

Diagnosis and treatment of toxoplasmosis

To confirm toxoplasmosis, your veterinarian will do lab tests on your dog’s blood, spinal fluids, and feces.

Veterinarians will typically prescribe antibiotics to treat toxo. There is no treatment currently, there is yet no treatment for chronic and fetal toxoplasmosis.

For acute toxoplasmosis in immunosuppressed dogs and puppies, anticonvulsant medications are prescribed to control seizures.

Fluids may be administered through the vein if a dog is severely dehydrated or incapacitated by the infection. Some medications frequently used are sulfadiazine and pyrimethamine, which suppress active multiplication of the parasite.



Disclaimer: The content provided on is purely informative and educational in nature and should not be interpreted as medical advice. Please use the content only in consultation with an appropriate certified medical doctor or healthcare professional.


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